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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Aceh rebels begin giving up guns
Members of the Free Aceh Movement holds weapons during handover of weapons to the Aceh Monitoring Mission in Banda Aceh - 15/9/05
The weapons were handed over to international monitors
Rebels in the Indonesian province of Aceh have handed over their first batch of weapons in a crucial stage of a peace process with the government.

The Free Aceh Movement (Gam) fighters are due to give up a quarter of their weapons at four undisclosed locations across the province this week.

In return, Indonesia will withdraw about 6,000 combat troops.

Aceh bore the brunt of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the disaster prompted the two sides to return to talks.

All hostilities cease and Gam disarms
Government withdraws non-local military and police
Aceh to be governed under a new law
Government facilitates Aceh-based political parties
Amnesty granted to Gam members
Truth and reconciliation commission established
Aceh monitoring mission set up by EU and Asean

Gam is expected to hand in a quarter of its arsenal over the next three days.

A Gam spokesman said 78 weapons had been handed over on Thursday, according to the Aceh Monitoring Mission. Gam is due to hand over the rest of its weapons by Christmas.

In return, Indonesian troops have already started withdrawing from Aceh.

The government has also announced that it will grant payments worth around 50 US cents a day to rebels who surrender.

Welfare Minister Alwi Shihab said the payments would continue for six months.

Once unthinkable

At one handover near the provincial capital Banda Aceh, the rebels arrived on motorbikes, their weapons in the back of a jeep.

A line of international monitors, dressed in matching white sports shirts, were waiting to meet them.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey says an assortment of handguns and assault rifles were handed over for inspection and registration, and then, in front of the world's media, assembled dignitaries and most important of all, a crowd of local Acehnese people, the guns were placed under a circular saw and cut into pieces.

Rebels who spoke to reporters had mixed feelings.

"I feel sad. It's like handing over my wife," former Gam member Muzakir told Reuters, after handing in his rifle.

"For me, she is like my wife because I sleep with her. I also am happy because I want to see Aceh like it was, at peace," he said.

Amni Marzuki, a senior Gam representative in Aceh, told a local radio station that the peace process was on course:

"There is good momentum - peace in Aceh can be achieved without violence."

Our correspondent says this is the first real test of the commitment of the two sides to a deal which was only signed a month ago.

There is still deep mistrust between the two sides, our correspondent says, but the mood is beginning to change.

In the wake of the tsunami, which killed 130,000 people locally, the rebels and the government both made compromises which would have been unthinkable before.

There was an understanding that Aceh needed a chance to rebuild and billions of dollars of international aid have been pledged.

But the conflict - which claimed the lives of 15,000 people in 29 years - was hampering the humanitarian effort, and peace, if sustained, should allow things to run much more effectively, our correspondent notes.

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